Meeting with India leaders on antibiotic resistance in livestock

Ron Dixon (Reader in the School of Life Sciences) travelled to Bangalore (Bengaluru), India recently as a guest of the UK High Commission to attend a workshop with Indian Veterinary and Pharmaceutical professionals and discuss the current landscape for antibiotic resistance research in India.

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He was one of 5 expert delegates from the UK tasked with identifying potential areas where additional research expertise from UK or India would add value to ongoing drug research in each country.

Giving a lecture on ‘Antimicrobial resistance and intensive farming’, Ron emphasised the importance of working with India to help this issue.

‘Collaborations between UK-India research communities in countering the emergence of antibiotic resistance in livestock and issues around public health are very urgent. We visited a diagnostic field station and saw the real life challenges of using antibiotics in veterinary situations’

Antimicrobial resistance is a global and complex issue which cannot be solved by any one country acting in isolation. Drug-resistant infections already kill hundreds of thousands a year globally, and by 2050 that figure could be more than 10 million.

In some parts of the world antimicrobial use is far greater in animals than in humans.  Global consumption of antimicrobials is predicted to increase by 67% by 2030 largely as a result of intensification of livestock systems and a shift to large scale farms where antimicrobials are used routinely.

The quantity of antibiotics used is likely to be one of the main drivers of development of resistance to these antibiotics, since animal agriculture could have an increasing role in the development of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens.

The workshop ‘Veterinary infections and research’ was part of UK’s Science and Innovation support delivery of the UK’s global strategy on Antibiotic resistance and was focused on building new international partnerships.

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Pets and their therapeutic effects

A prestigious Veterinary journal has published a feature in which Professor Daniel Mills and Dr Sophie Hall discuss the therapeutic effects of companion animals.

Professor Mills, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, and Dr Hall, who will be joining the team on a project related to pet dogs and families with autistic children, also focus on the influence of pets on childhood development in the article for Veterinary Record.

Despite a growing body of evidence indicating many benefits surrounding the relationship between people and pets, the authors suggest even more novel interventions using companion animals are possible in preventative healthcare.

They conclude: “Animal companionship is potentially more cost-effective and socially acceptable than technological solutions. Companion animals should not be considered a luxury or unnecessary indulgence, but rather, when cared for appropriately, they should be seen as valuable contributors to human health and wellbeing and, as a result, society and the broader economy.”

Pets are often used to support people, but there are few controlled investigations into the effects of human-animal companionship in medical settings, and this is an area that researchers are keen to develop further at the University following Dr Hall’s appointment.

Along with reducing overt emotional responses such as anxiety, there is evidence to suggest that animal companionship can be highly influential in reducing a sense of isolation.

The constant companionship of an animal has been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in elderly care home residents. And a further study with patients in palliative care showed that the presence of a dog, cat or rabbit improved the mood of patients. Similar mood changes have also been observed in children with autism and Alzheimer’s patients.

The team is now engaged in a long term follow-up of their earlier controlled study, in conjunction with the Parents Autism Workshops and Support Network, examining the effects of pet dog ownership on UK families with an autistic child. Results from the initial study are due to be reported soon in the scientific press. Uniquely, this has examined the effects on the child, primary carer and wider family, since it is hypothesised that all of these might benefit from the companionship provided by a dog.

The positive effects of animals in reducing negative emotions and increasing positive emotions may improve not only quality of life but can also help with the development of effective interventions.

Previous research in the field of human health and medical psychology has provided evidence to suggest that dog and cat owners have better psychological and physical health than non-owners. Dog owners are also reported to recover more quickly after serious mental and physical illness, and even make fewer visits to their doctor. All of these effects might have a significant impact on NHS costs at a time when government is looking for cost savings,

The authors comment: “We should be curious about all the ways companion animals can potentially help us and embrace the opportunities provided by a greater appreciation of the impact of companion animals on our lives.
“It is perhaps ironic that in a world that seems to be increasingly encouraging the development of technologies to make our lives easier, an obvious answer to many of our problems may be literally staring us in the face (or sitting on our lap).”

To read the full article ‘Animal-assisted interventions: making better use of the human-animal bond’ in Veterinary Record go to http://ow.ly/uOv4I

Lecture to focus on separation anxiety

Daniel Mills

Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine, has been invited to speak at the University of Vienna’s prestigious annual public lecture series on human animal interactions later this month.

Entitled Highlights in Human-Animal Relationships, the series sees experts in biology, psychology and human sciences present an insight into the current state of knowledge in this area.

Professor Mills’ topic “Separation anxiety is not a diagnosis” will focus on the extremely common problem of dogs becoming distressed in their owner’s absence, and the approach developed at Lincoln to improve diagnosis.

A study is now being undertaken by Professor Mills in conjunction with Raquel Matos, from the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Kosice, Slovakia, to improve our understanding of this. Dog owners are being asked to complete a detailed survey to help researchers analyse the various clinical signs and situations in which problems occur.

To take part in the survey visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/separation-related-problems_dogs

The researchers hope to apply the findings from the survey to aid further development of more specific treatments and prevention programmes.

Professor Mills’ lecture takes place on 28th January from 6.45pm at the University of Vienna.

Major new initiative on feline welfare launched

Scientists at the University of Lincoln hope to make a major breakthrough to help alleviate feline suffering following the award of a research grant of nearly £400,000.

Derbyshire-based charity Feline Friends donated the funds for research aimed at the early detection of suffering in cats, by using computer-based technology to analyse the facial expressions of pet cats before and after treatment.

Over recent years leading veterinary behaviourist Professor Daniel Mills at the University of Lincoln, UK, has been developing a clinical technique to help behaviourists identify the emotions of companion animals, while his colleague, computer vision expert Dr Georgios Tzimiropoulos, has been working on the automatic detection of emotions in humans. This project will bring their skills together in a unique way to pick out the subtleties of feline expression.

Professor Mills said: “This is a rare opportunity to systematically explore the emotional aspects of suffering in animals in new ways, with a view to developing more efficient early detection mechanisms. The multidisciplinary approach we will be using is ambitious, but has the potential to produce enormous rewards not just for those interested in feline welfare, but also animal welfare more broadly, as the methods we will be developing could be applied to any species.”

Dr Tzimiropoulos, in the School of Computer Science, has been pioneering the development of self-learning computer vision systems to aid the automatic detection of facial expressions. The idea is that by feeding the computer images of cats before and after treatment it will eventually start to pick out the key features that differentiate the two conditions.

This award will allow academics from the different disciplines to combine their expertise to explore emotional expression in cats, which will potentially allow them to objectively define different forms of suffering.

The aim is to detect earlier and possibly more subtle signs than has been possible before, so that owners seek veterinary assistance sooner. No cats will be harmed during the course of the research.

Professor Mills added: “The translation of our findings into a usable resource is a major part of the project, so we can maximise the impact of our research. We are delighted that Feline Friends has had the courage and vision to make such a substantial investment in this pioneering work. We anticipate the project will take nearly five years to complete, but hope to be making useful contributions from an early stage within the research.”

Caroline Fawcett, of the charity Feline Friends, added: “Helping owners to better understand their feline companions, and the numerous ailments which beset them, has always been a paramount objective of our charity. Cats are notorious for not showing pain until their suffering becomes unbearable, and this visionary research may open our eyes in such a way that we can take much earlier action to relieve their suffering. The team at the University of Lincoln has demonstrated to us that they really do care about improving the welfare of our cats; and I believe that if anyone can succeed in breaking through the existing barriers to our knowledge then they can.”

Helping our animals deal with stress

Professor Daniel MillsA leading animal behaviourist who has pioneered research into the effects of pheromone therapy has co-authored a new book on the subject.

We may not be sure how our animals experience stress, but emotional upset can have a significant impact on their lives.

For this reason, more emphasis is being placed on what can be done to alleviate the effect of different types of stresses on our pets’ emotional and physical health.

Professor Daniel Mills, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, has pioneered the use of pheromone therapy to encourage desirable behaviour in dogs and cats.

Bringing together the latest research in this developing area, he has written a new book on the use of pheromone therapy within the field of clinical animal behaviour with colleagues Dr Maya Braem Dube from the University of Bern in Switzerland and European behaviour specialist Helen Zulch, also from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.

Stress and Pheromonatherapy in Small Animal Clinical Behaviour details how stress impacts on animal behaviour and welfare and what we can do about it, especially by using chemical signals more effectively.

Pheromones, which are a form of chemical signal, are produced by a huge variety of species throughout the animal kingdom. They are released by the animal into its environment and can affect their own behaviour and that of other animals as well.

As the culmination of many years’ research and experiences, the book offers sound evidence-based advice on how and when pheromones can be used most effectively.

It deals with some fundamental issues focussing on the key concepts of the various forms of stress, and how communication and perceptual processes influences the action of message receivers.

It then goes on to cover the application of these concepts to a range of specific situations, concentrating on conditions in which there has been most research to support the effects of pheromone therapy.

Professor Mills, has conducted extensive research in this field over the last 15 years and provides consultancy to a range of organisations in the animal care and science industries.

He said: “We have tried to bring together our experience in both practice and research in veterinary behavioural medicine to present not just the current state of the art, but also a vision of future practice for consideration. In our experience this approach has allowed us to be more specific with our treatment recommendations and led to more rapid progress for clients. The approach may initially appear somewhat novel to practitioners, but is not difficult to understand and has a solid foundation in the latest thinking in neuroscience and behaviour. This is an approach that we have very much developed at the University of Lincoln.”

The publication is suitable for veterinarians in small animal practice, students of clinical animal behaviour and researchers.

For more information or to place an order visit www.wiley.com/go/vet